U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/03/24 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, March 24, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly LEBANON Report of Sale of Military Equipment from U.S. ......1-2 TURKEY Incursion into Northern Iraq --Possible Creation of Buffer Zone ..................2-3 --Assurances of Withdrawal ..........................2 --U.S. Contact with Turkish Gov't. ..................3-4 GUATEMALA Jennifer Harbury Case ...............................4 --Investigation w/in CIA re: Timing/Type of Info. ...4-5 --Meetings between U.S. Officials and Ms. Harbury ...5-6 IRAQ American Citizens Detained ..........................7 --Polish Authority Access to Americans ..............7-8 Condition/Treatment of Americans ................7-8 --Report of Turkish Gov't. Efforts to Release Amers .8 CHAD American Citizen Detained ...........................8-9 --Embassy Attempts to Locate/Secure Release .........9
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 1995, 1:22 P.M.
ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department Briefing.
I have no announcements. I'd be happy to go directly to your questions.
Q Do you know anything about a request from the Lebanese military for l6 helicopters -- this according to the Lebanese Defense Minister?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have the specifics of this particular sale. I'll be happy to look into it. However, as to the larger question, we of course have a strong interest in supporting Lebanon, including the Lebanese armed forces, in the context of our support for the independent sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon. Sales of this nature are carried out only following close consultation with the Congress and carry with them appropriate safeguards to ensure that the equipment purchased will be used only by the purchaser for the purposes specified.
Q And you have nothing at all about a request for helicopters?
MS. SHELLY: Nothing specific on the request that you mentioned.
Q What does your guidance refer to?
MS. SHELLY: The guidance is referring to a possible U.S. helicopter sale to Lebanon. (Laughter)
Q That's clear enough.
MS. SHELLY: Sid, come on. They just stick it in front of me and tell me to read it. What do you expect? (Laughter)
No, I don't have -- I'll be happy to look into it. We became aware, shortly prior to the briefing, that the subject might come up; and I'll try to get some more details for you if I can.
Q Speaking of equipment that might be used for purposes it was not intended, it seems that that may be happening in Turkey. Was this building notified by the Turks of their decision yesterday to maintain a buffer zone and possibly occupy part of Iraq?
MS. SHELLY: As to the notion of a buffer zone or a possible creation of a buffer zone, a general answer to that is that some senior Turkish officials, including the Prime Minister, have assured us that their forces will withdraw from northern Iraq in short order. We are in regular contact with the Turkish Government and are stressing the importance of honoring these assurances. I understand that the Europeans are making similar approaches.
We have seen some reports that Prime Minister Ciller has called for an international solution to the situation in northern Iraq, and that might be some type of buffer zone. But at this point we do not have any details on this idea.
Q What is short order on Monday, when this started, you were saying a couple of days. It's now going on a week. What would be a timely withdrawal?
MS. SHELLY: We would like them, of course, to be able to withdraw as soon as possible. I don't think it would be very meaningful for us to try to put a time limit on it, except to say that we hope that they will withdraw at the earliest possible date.
Q In erecting a buffer zone, I think the comments were something like "Israel has in southern Lebanon."
MS. SHELLY: Yes. Again, we don't have a lot of details about what they have in mind. I'm sure that we are certainly mindful of the problem that they face from the terrorist attacks which do take place against Turkey which are launched from the territory of Iraq. We are certainly very mindful of that problem; and I think that if there were some specific proposals that were put forward by the Turks that would try to address that, I'm sure we would give them a fair hearing. But as I don't have any details yet on this idea, I'm really rather constrained to provide more specific commenting.
Q Yes, but what about, I mean, a buffer zone? Do we reject the idea of a buffer zone, or could we under some circumstances perhaps accept it?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, I can't give you a precise answer on that at this point. If Turkey has a proposal for a buffer zone or for anything else -- any other kind of international solution to the problem which they face, which is terrorist attacks coming from the PKK which do come across the Iraqi- Turkish border -- we would certainly want to listen to what that proposal was and give it a fair consideration.
But insofar as we don't have any details yet of that type of proposal, I'm simply constrained from being more specific in our response.
Q In the case of just special equipment? Do you mean to say that if they propose a buffer zone, we'll give it a fair hearing?
MS. SHELLY: No. Again, you're then getting me into the hypothetical question -- if they propose, then we would support or not support -- and --
Q That's precisely what you just said.
MS. SHELLY: I've said they have a problem -- okay? --
Q In Turkey --
MS. SHELLY: -- and that they face terrorist attacks.
Q -- that's a proposal for a buffer zone, if you'd be careful.
MS. SHELLY: And I said if they put forward proposals in detail that suggest a solution to the problem, those are certainly proposals that we would look at. But I'm not signaling what our position would be on something that hasn't happened.
Q Including a buffer zone?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not being specific one way or the other on the idea of a buffer zone.
Q Well, you're on the record saying it now.
MS. SHELLY: That isn't my interpretation of what I said.
Q All right. It's mine.
Q Is it fair to say you're inviting Turkey to make a proposal?
MS. SHELLY: No. I think it's up to Turkey to signal what it would like to do vis-a-vis proposals to deal with the longer term problem.
Q A different subject?
Q You can't reject out of hand one country occupying its neighbor, the idea of one country -- having a permanent occupation of its neighbor.
MS. SHELLY: Sid, we are not supporting the notion that involves a kind of permanent presence of the Turkish troops which have crossed into Iraq. We have already said that we would like to see those troops withdrawn as soon as possible. We will watch to see whether the Turkish assurances that they have given -- which is that the operation would be limited in scope and duration -- we will watch that very closely. We'll also watch the assurances that they've given about minimizing effects, to the extent possible, on innocent civilians.
Those are the things which we are watching very carefully, and we recognize the need for their desire to be able to deal with the problem and the threat that they face from PKK terrorism.
Q On the Jennifer Harbury case, David read us a fairly extensive going over of what contacts have been made by this Government with her. But I have a question as to what you knew and when you knew it. Do you all feel that you were misled by contacts with the CIA and the information that you got from them on this particular case?
MS. SHELLY: First of all, I might also point you to yesterday's White House briefing where Mike went through also a real point-by-point of all of the exchanges that we had with Jennifer Harbury and what we knew at that time.
There are some investigations which are going to go on, and specifically within the CIA, about exactly what information was available when. So I'm not able to comment specifically on that or on the nature of information that we were getting from the CIA and when we got it.
I don't want to rehash the time line of exactly every single meeting that we had with Jennifer Harbury, but let me just make a couple of quick points.
This has clearly been a very terrible ordeal for her, and we are certainly very sympathetic to all of the pain and agony that she has been through associated with not knowing what the fate of her husband was after his capture.
As you are certainly aware, there are legal restrictions which do exist. They prevent us, in cases of passing intelligence information or very sensitive information, from being able to pass exactly the information directly to private citizens. We are constrained by those restrictions.
Nevertheless, against the backdrop of those legal constraints, on numerous occasions, when we did meet with her, we went to great lengths to provide Ms. Harbury with the conclusions that the intelligence community drew from the information that we did have.
Between November and March, U.S. officials met with Ms. Harbury on at least eight occasions to give her the information that we had; to give her the conclusions that we had reached based on the information that we had, in which we had concluded that Bamaca was dead. And on every occasion we did emphasize while that information did not constitute conclusive evidence, it was our considered assessment that he was dead.
Most recently, I think yesterday, also we had another meeting with her. An NSC official, Mr. Feinberg, met with Ms. Harbury to review once again the information that we had provided her on several previous occasions regarding her husband's fate.
Q Will you follow up on that, Christine? Not speaking of Ms. Harbury personally, but the question was asked about the CIA and whether the Department had been misled -- feels it's been misled by the CIA. There's no legal restriction -- at least, I think -- on your commenting on that.
MS. SHELLY: I think that as you are aware, as there will be formal inquiries by inspectors as to exactly what information was available, when, I think it does prevent me -- at least, as far as exercising good judgment up here -- from answering that question. I think it's certainly a legitimate question from your point of view to raise, but I simply feel that it's not appropriate for me to offer an answer to that until the investigations have been done.
Q Well, she said this morning that the name of Colonel Alpirez was never mentioned to her by anybody connected with the U.S. Government until Congressman Torricelli mentioned it to her two days ago, and her view is that you have not been very forthcoming with her.
MS. SHELLY: Well --
Q I don't suppose that's a question, but I'm just laying that out.
MS. SHELLY: Okay. We've met with her many times, and we've heard her views, and we obviously also pay a great deal of attention to what she says publicly. But I frankly don't think it's a productive exercise to try to get into an individual dispute with her about specific pieces of information.
Q Christine, on a personal note, in retrospect would you have offered different guidance on March 10 than the one that you did, had you been given a more complete picture of what was going on?
MS. SHELLY: Are you referring to the statement that we put out, or what are you specifically referring to?
Q Your answers to questions March 10.
MS. SHELLY: At the briefing.
Q No conclusive evidence, so on and so forth.
MS. SHELLY: I stand by what I said on March 10.
Q And you felt that you had been given all the information necessary to give the world the State Department's view of things.
MS. SHELLY: Sid, first of all, one thing I would want to do before doing much more on what I said at the briefing or in my statement in the press release that we put out, I'd want to go back and check the transcript associated with that. But we certainly in no way, in any sense attempted to mislead her about the quality of information that we had or the substance of that information. We always tried to brief her and give her our best assessment, at that point in time, to share with her the conclusions that we came to on the basis of the information that we had -- even if we were not able to give her the precise information necessarily in the form that we had it.
Q New subject?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Americans in Iraq. Can you give us a little bit more detail on what the Polish Embassy officials have told you, and also are there any indications of Iraq's intentions towards them? Are there any indications that Iraq is going to put them on trial or anything of that kind?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot of additional information. I'll be happy to share with you what I've got. On Thursday afternoon in Baghdad the Polish authorities, who, as I think you know, are our protecting power for the United States and Iraq -- they did gain access finally to the two detained American citizens.
The Poles have reported to us that both men appear to be in good health. We have heard reports that they may be charged with illegal entry. In the absence of formal charges, however, we cannot comment on how they might plead nor on the possible penalties for possible charges.
All indications are that this incident was entirely a result of innocent mistakes. We continue to believe that it should be resolved expeditiously based on humanitarian grounds by the early release of the two men in question.
We are keeping in touch with the families of the two Americans to update them as new information becomes available. The detention of the two American citizens in our view is strictly a Consular matter, and the case should not linked to any other issue.
Q Did you say you've heard reports they may be charged? Is that in news reports or --
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I'd have to go back and check that. There are news reports to that effect. I don't know if it also includes other reports we may have received.
Q Also, the Polish authorities are saying -- reporting that fact.
MS. SHELLY: I'd have to go back and check that specifically.
Q Have you heard about that the Turkish representative in Baghdad -- they are contacting with the Government of Baghdad to release the two Americans. Do you have anything about that?
MS. SHELLY: On Turkish Government efforts to try to secure the release?
Q Yes, to release two Americans.
MS. SHELLY: No, I have not heard anything specifically on that. We indicated a couple of days ago that we hoped that other governments that might be in a position to influence this would certainly work toward that end. As we stood by our assertion, and certainly very strong belief, that it was just an honest mistake and not something that had any other objective in it.
So if any other government can be helpful in securing their release, it's certainly something we would welcome.
Q Is there anything else you can say about the meeting with the Polish authorities other than that the Poles found them in good health? Did they say how they were being treated?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware of -- we don't have a lot of information, or at least I don't have a lot of information on that contact. No information that would suggest that they have been mistreated has come to our attention to my knowledge.
Q Do you know if they're in prison, in jail, or the conditions in which they're being held? Do you have any information on that?
MS. SHELLY: No, I do not.
Q How long is that meeting that they had with the two men?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't have that information.
Q Were Iraqi officials there during the meeting?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know that either.
Q Anything more on the American being held in Chad?
MS. SHELLY: As you know, we put out a statement yesterday, indicating that Mr. Johnson is a diabetic who requires daily medication, and we called upon those who are holding him to release him immediately. It doesn't look like there's much new to report in terms of developments. I've got a little bit of additional information about things that we've been doing.
We do not have a Privacy Act consideration, so we are not able to release a lot of personal information about him. I can tell you he was employed on a United Nations agricultural project in the Kanem region. As I mentioned before, he was kidnapped in Mao, Chad, along with one Mali and two Chadian citizens.
Our Embassy is still working with the Chadian authorities to try to locate him. The Embassies in Niamey, Niger, Lagos, Nigeria, as well as the U.S. Liaison Office in Abuja, Nigeria, are also working to try to secure his release.
I think that's pretty much what I've got today.
Q The statement yesterday didn't really get into the group much besides naming it. Do they have an agenda? There were earlier reports that there were linked to Libya. Do you have any information on the group?
MS. SHELLY: I know there are at least some reports to that effect. I don't know if we have hard evidence. The Movement for Democracy and Development is an armed group opposed to the Government of President Idriss Deby. There are several different factions within the MDD. In its public statements, to our knowledge, the MDD has not expressed any anti-American sentiments.
Q Do you know if the other people taken with him have been released?
MS. SHELLY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Or any other contact with the group in the last few days?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any information to that effect.
Q No one has seen him.
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware that there is any contact that's been made with him.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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